By Dr Aqsa Shaikh
January 5, 2020
On the night of 8 th December 2019, as some workers finished their day and went to sleep, none of them must have thought that they will wake up to fire and fumes and die of burns and smoke. This was the story of 43 workers who died in the catastrophic fire at the factory in Anaj Mandi, Delhi.
As usual, after any tragedy, we have tried to do fault-finding and pin blames. As its near election-time in Delhi, the exercise of pushing blames on a multitude of agencies is on in full swing. Some people have also tried to link the religion of the factory owner and make it controversial. Most of the workers who died were young men from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and were Muslims. The owner of the Factory was also a Muslim.
As the investigative agencies are mulling over debris and records to find glaring loopholes with which the factory ran and escaped the eye of officers, one thing is clear. That the factory owner was a corrupt and exploitative owner whose sheer disregard for the safety of the lives led to this massive tragedy. This leads us to wonder, how can one profess themself to be a Muslim and be so callous about the people who work for them.
Islam is a religion of peace and Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sent as a blessing for the entire Humanity. Islam teaches fulfilling the rights of everyone including workers and labourers. In this world, some of us are bosses and some of us are workers. But the Boss has no superiority over the worker. The Boss is supposed to treat the worker like his/her own brother/sister. The boss is supposed to fulfil all the rights.
It Is Mentioned In the Quran
“Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees (of rank) that they may make use of one another for service. But the mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:32)
The least that a boss can do is pay the wages of their employees honestly and on time.
Abdullah Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “Pay the worker his wages before his sweat has dried.” (Sunan Ibn Ma¯jah 2443)
And The Commandments Go Beyond The Simple Payment Of Wages.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said: “Your employees are your brothers upon whom Allah has given you authority, so if a Muslim has another person under his control, he/she should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with the like of what one wears and you should not overburden them with what they cannot bear and if you do so, help them in their jobs.”
And the Prophet PBUH has exemplified this through his own behaviour. As an employer, he used to sit on the floor and eat with his servant boy Anas Ibn Malik, who served him for ten years. Anas is reported to have said that the Prophet (PBUH) never rebuked him for anything: “When I did something, he never questioned my manner of doing it; and when I did not do something, he never questioned my failure to do it. He was the most good-natured of all men.”
Now, look around our society. Look at our fellow Muslims and the sheer disregard for labour rights. Right from our homes to our factories or small restaurants, we leave no opportunity to harass our employees. At home, the way the servants are treated is known to all. Islam taught us to sit with them and eat the same food. How much of it are we doing? We do not want to give them weekly off. How many times we have seen our maids work during pregnancy or during lactation. We give them only our over-used and torn clothes or leftover, stale food.
In our factories, we are exploiting our labourers who are gullible and desperate. They work without safety putting their lives at risk. They do not clearly know what work they have been hired for, contracts are not signed, payment is not fixed and even if it is fixed, many times it is not paid fully.
When It Comes To Contracts, Remember the Teachings Of The Quran
Allah says in the Qur’an “O you who believe, fulfil your contracts.” (Al-Ma’idah 5: 1) The Prophet PBUH said, “Muslims must abide by their agreements unless there is an agreement that makes Halal what is Haram or makes Haram what is Halal. “ (At-Tirmidhi)
The employers have an image that workers are lazy and always trying to escape from work. There are many laws of the land which have been created for the welfare and safety of workers, but our owners are always looking at ways to how not to fulfil them and to escape and save money. The fire at Anaj Mandi is a classic example. Every possible safety measure and welfare provision was ignored leading to this catastrophe.
We have one of the highest numbers of child labourers too. And it is a shame. At Anaj Mandi fire, it was found that many child labourers were employed. When we are not following the safety guidelines and not fulfilling the rights of the workers, we are directly negating the teaching of Islam. The International Labour Laws came into existence a few decades back. At a time when slavery was the norm, Islam was the first to give Labour rights. So it is paradoxical that the believers of Islam have left behind the message on labour rights.
Let this be a reminder that we will be accountable for how we treat the employees who work for us – so that there is no tragedy like Anaj Mandi in the future.
Original Headline: Islam and Labour Rights
Source: The Times of India